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The Spirit of Imam Husain's Martyrdom

Nature of Umayyad Rule

To illustrate a few points, it may be stated that the Umayyad’s rule was unIslamic. Any rule which is based on force and violence can never be Islamic. The Umayyads crushed the spirit of democratic freedom. They laid the foundation of their authority on unscrupulous tactics and coercive methods instead of on mutual consultation and Ijma’ (Consensus). The Umayyad state craft did not follow the Shari’ah in total, but it was motivated merely by lust of power and political ends. Such a serious menace to the basic values of Islam demanded a heroic struggled against arbitration and a crusade for the vindication of truth and freedom.

Imam Husain’s character as a Mu’min

These were the changes that appeared in the wake of converting the Islamic Khulafat into dynastic imperialism. No one can deny that Yazid’s nomination as successor to his father was the starting point of all these transformation. It cannot be gainsaid that after a short span of time from the point of origin all the corrupt practices mentioned above came into existence. At the time when this revolutionary step was adopted, there was no indication of these evils, but a man of vision could have predicted these inevitable consequences of such a beginning and that the reforms introduced by Islam in the administration and political phases of the state would be rendered null and void by these charges. This is the reason why Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) could not remain indifferent to this undesirable development. He, therefore, decided to stem the tide of the evil forces taking the risk of confronting the worst consequences by rising the revolt against an established government. The consequences of his bold stand are known to every one. The fact which Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) wanted to emphasize by plunging himself into grave danger and enduring its consequences heroically was that the fundamental features of the Islamic State are valuable assets. It would not be a bad bargain, if a believer sacrificed his life and get his family members slain for preserving this valuable object. A believer should not hesitate to sacrifice all that he possesses for preventing the changes which constitute a serious danger to the religion of al-Islam and the Muslim Community which is a custodian of the constitutional values. One is at liberty to contemptuously disregard it as merely a maneuver for securing power, but in the eyes of Imam Husain bin Ali (radiyallahu ‘anh), it was primarily a religious obligation. He, therefore, laid down his life in this cause gaining the crown of martyrdom.

Imam Husain’s Role

Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh), Sayyid-ush-Shuhadaa, initiated the holy war against the oppressive regime of the Umayyads and refused to take the oath of allegiance to that authority. It is a sacred legacy bequeathed to posterity by Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) that Muslims should never submit to any authority which defies the Divine Law, maintains itself by force and foists it arbitrary decisions on the people at the cost of inherent freedom. The struggle in this cause does not necessitate mobilization of men, money and material on the scaled possessed by the hostile temporal authority. Husain bin Ali (radiyallahu ‘anh) did not possess the sinews of war. He had the support of only a small band of helpless and un-armed individuals. A person entrenched in righteousness and truth does not care for consequences. The outcome of the struggle lies in the hands of the power that is always on the side of Justice and Truth. Cruelty eventually suffers a set back, gains despair and despondency despite its overwhelming superiority in number and resources. On such occasions, one surrenders to considerations of expediency through the agony of the accursed Shaitan who creates doubt in the mind of defenders of Truth whether the result is worth achieving at cost of much bloodshed. This can very easily be contradicted. Apart from numerous instances of Jihad, there is the event of Karbala that is a glaring example of a fight heroically fought by 62-72 scantily armed persons against the massive forces of a formidable state. It is true that Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) saw his kith and kin in utter distress suffering the agonies of hunger and thirst; witnessed each and every one of them writhing in dust and blood one after the other; it is also a fact that he did not even possess the force to wrest a morsel of bread from the enemy sufficient for their survival, but he eventually surrendered himself to the Supreme Being, sustaining grave injuries all over his body. However he came out successfully in the test. His wounded head was adorned with the crown of victory.

Imam Husain’s Martyrdom and Humanity

Now the question arises whether Imam Husain’s martyrdom was only the result of his attempt to seize the throne and the sympathy it evokes in the readers is the natural reaction to a splendid failure? Or, is this merely the recalcitrant attitude or unscrupulous policy of a short tempered leader who, by chance, happened to be the grandson of their beloved Nabi (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) and solely on this account, do they come out for his defense. Whether this is a heart-rending story of the ruthless and brutal destruction of a weak party, the narration of which induces you to burst into tears? The history of the world provides a number of instances appealing to our sympathy. It is so much replete with individual and collective incidents of failure and frustration, on one hand, and those of cruelty and barbarism, on the other, that the world will not be particularly impressed with the tragic episode of Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh). No! Imam Husain’s story does not purport to be anything of this kind. It is in the main, a story of human dignity; a tale of revealing the essential nobility of man; an account of a man’s ascent to the peak of grandeur. It presents a lofty deal of individual and collective human life; it is a mile-stone in the long journey from beastly slavery to human freedom; it is a proclamation of Allah’s Kingdom in this ephemeral world; it is an irrefutable proof of the possibility of its establishment among human being; it is a beacon light which guides humanity to perfection. Whenever evil forces make a bid to put out this light with their breath, the monumental performance of Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) intensifies its refulgence. When humanity falters in adhering to the path of truth and freedom, the example set up by Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) gives it a support and comes to its rescue. When the tyrants proud of their wealth, power, and authority harass the unassuming and helpless followers of Truth and when the incessant failure of the champions of truth cast doubt upon the validity of its claim, Imam Husain’s heroic stand in its cause teaches them the lesson of perseverance and save them from falling a prey to despair and despondency. When the rising power of tyrants overawes the individual, Imam Husain’s example reminds him that the duty of stimulating resistance against brutal power ultimately devolves on him. It matters not if for making such an attempt, the enemy offers him a cup of poison, sends him to the gallows, stones him to death, or stains the earth with his blood. Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) brings this fact home to the worldly persons that “life” does not mean just living, no matter how. He asserts that life sometimes means to live and sometimes to surrender it.

Real Object of Imam Husain’s Sacrifice

Every year, in the month of Muharram, millions of Muslims mourn Imam Husain’s martyrdom. It is regretable that among those mourners, there are very few persons who focus their attention on the real cause for which Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) not only sacrificed his own life, but also the lives of his kith and kin. It is but natural for the adherents and devoted followers of a man to feel grieved at his martyrdom. This sort of sentiment does not carry much of moral value; it is nothing but a spontaneous reaction of the mind of his relations and sympathizers. But the point at issue is what is the special feather of Imam Husain’s martyrdom that keeps the grief for him afresh although about 1,400 years have elapsed since this tragic event took place. If the martyrdom is not associated with any high ideal, it is meaningless to say that the mourning continues for centuries on personal grounds. If viewed in correct perspective, one may well ask what value Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) himself would attach to such devotion. If his own person were dearer to him than any ideology or subject, why did he sacrifice it at all? His sacrifice is a conclusive proof that this object was dearer to him than his own life. If we do not have a clear idea of Imam Husain’s purpose, but continue lamentation at each anniversary of his martyrdom, we can neither expect any appreciation from Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) on the Day of Resurrection, nor will it have any value with his Allah.

Let us ask what was that ideal or object! Did Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) affirm his claim to succession to the Caliphate and did he stake his life to vindicate this claim? Any one who knows the high moral standard of Imam Husain’s household cannot harbor this vile notion that the members of such a sacred family could have caused bloodshed among the Muslims for gaining political power for themselves. If, for argument’s sake this viewpoint is taken for granted that members of Bani Hashim had a claim for power, even then the 50-year’s history, from Hazrat Abu Bakr’s (radiyallahu ‘anh) Caliphate down to the period of Hazrat Amir Mu’awiyah, bears evidence that waging war and causing bloodshed merely to seize power had never been their motive. As a logical corollary, one has to admit that Imam Husain’s keep eye discerned symptoms of decay and corruption in the system of the Islamic State, and the felt impelled to resist these evil forces. He even deemed it his duty to wage war in this connection, as the situation so warranted.

Fight Against Falsehood

Turn over the pages of history! The early period of Islam which is considered to be the best of all that has elapsed. Even the period of the true successors to the Holy Nabi (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) has terminated. The age of the secular authority, viz., the period of autocratic government has been ushered in. In flagrant contravention to the Divine Authority, the Muslim kings look upon the state exchequer as their person property. In each Muslim State, the monarch fills his treasury with gold and unbelieverelry and with his political power reinforced by the power of money he forces this people to obey his arbitrary commands. Some people submit to him out of fear and others do so to gain their selfish ends with his help. There is always a hard core of steadfast Muslims who refuse to yield. The Nabi’s grandson, Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh), falls in the last category. Persuasion, threats, and crafty measures were employed, but Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) remain adamant. How could Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh), in whose veins the blood of Hazrat Ali, Sayyidah Fatimah (radiyallahu ‘anhuma), and Nabi Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) was pulsating, who was Allah-fearing, who had devotion for Truth, treat falsehood at par with Truth? Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) flatly refused to take bay’ah to Yazid. In effect, Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) declared that Yazid’s authority, being in conflict with the Divine Authority, should not be obeyed by true Muslims. This was the first step in the direction of martyrdom.

He was driven out of his native place. He could not live in peace even in Makkah. He, therefore, resolved to migrate to Iraq. This amounted to a proclamation, on his part, that Yazid’s claim to authority in the Muslim State was untenable. The idea of submitting to Yazid was so repugnant to him that he decided to renounced the security and comforts of his homeland. This was the second step leading to martyrdom.

On his way to Kufa, at Karbala, Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) was intercepted by Yazid’s forces. The small band of his followers was surrounded by Yazid’s army. This was the last sacrifice and the final ordeal. He successfully passed the test. Each and everyone from amongst his relatives and companions were killed one after another. Children were slain. Finally, Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh), with a mass of wounds and bruises fell down from his horse. His heart harbored and his lips uttered the belief that “There is no worthy of worship, except Allah and Absolute authority is vested in Him alone.” This was martyrdom, the sacrifice of one’s life for the vindication of Truth. Thirteen centuries have since elapsed, the example set up by Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) gives and will continue to give evidence, till eternity that Command rests with Allah Ta’ala.

Whenever Divine Authority is respected, men will remember how the grandson of the greatest Benefactor of humanity sacrificed his life in defense of Truth. In future, when, with the increase of human knowledge, the obstacles to progress would be removed and men will be marching confidently to the goal of self-realization, they would surely recall the glorious sacrifice offered by Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) at the altar of Truth. When the human mind will be rid of ever fear except the fear of Allah, Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) will be accorded the respect which he deserves and men will often think how Sayyidah Fatimah’s beloved son displayed the sublimity of obedience to Allah by the voluntary sacrifice of his own life. Then alone this helpless man will come into prominence as the ruler of rulers. This frustrated man would be regarded as the custodian of religion and faith. Once covered with blood and dust, his head will become the symbol of absolute submission to Divine Authority and fearless defiance of any other type of temporal power.

Morals of Imam Husain’s Performance

This exemplary conduct displayed by Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) teaches us not to care for consequences. If the temporal authority is aggressive, sacrifice on the part of followers of Truth becomes all the more essential. Numerical minority and majority, or the lack of resources should not deter them to continue their struggle. Grandeur of coercive government does not carry the seal of Divine approval that it should necessarily be obeyed. A truth-loving person has to face an oppressor whether weak or strong.

Adherence to Truth and Justice is, no doubt, and ordeal. At every step, there is diversion of attention due to attachment to one’s own life, honor and family. But Imam Husain’s lofty ideal teaches the believers and sincere followers of al-Islam that at the ver outset they should take stock of the strength of their resoluteness, so that these temptations may not prove a stumbling block immediately after embarking on that mission. Everyone knows that in the presence of various attachments, the great martyr of Karbala sacrificed his all at the altar of Truth. All the stages of ordeals are categorically described in the Holy Qur’an: Allah intends to test the believers by bringing them under the throes of various ordeals:

“And surely We shall try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives and crops; but give glad tidings to the steadfast. Who say when a misfortune strikes them: Surely! We are from Allah and surely unto Him we are returning.” (Surah al-Baqarah, ayats 155, 156)

Fear and apprehension, hunger and thirst, love of wealth, property, life and progeny form an acid test for human beings, and as such, the sacrifice of these interests have been declared an ordeal in the cause of Allah.

The helpless hero of Karbala had all these stages, at a stretch. He could have got rid of them within a short span of time and secured relief, position, grandeur, had he only made a compromise with aggression government ignoring the dictates of Truth and Justice. Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) preferred Allah’s Will to his won personal choice. Devotion for Truth overcomes love for life and its luxuries. He laid down his life, being the only asset with the lover of Truth, but he never stretched his hand for taking bay’ah which could be extended only in the cause of Truth.

The most valuable lesson that can be deduced from this grave event is Sabr (perseverance) and determination in the cause of Jihad and Truth.

In spite of being helplessly besieged by enemy with members of family, relatives, and friends witnessing his own kith and kin wailing and shrieking with the intensity of thirst and hunger and later lifting with his own hands their bodies stained with blood. Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) never swerved from the path of truth, even for a moment. In short, he underwent these calamities, being tacitly grateful to Allah Ta’ala. Those who are surcharged with the intoxication of devotion and love willingly accept a cup of poison from the hands of their friends in preference to the cup of honey and elixir. Even today, every particle of the dust of Karbala gives the lesson of patience and endurance of those who keep their ears open to listen to its message.

Imam Husain (radiyallahu ‘anh) was the torchbearer of absolute values. He lived, fought, and sacrificed his life in defense of these ideals. He lit an ever-lasting beacon light for humanity by his heroic struggle for Truth and righteousness that could not be extinguished even after his death. The glorious example of his life enables mankind to purify the social life and checking the evil that brings corruption into the body politic. This light is a source of guidance in every walk of human life.